Obscure future

FILE - The Middle East MAP

The repercussions of popular uprisings in Arab countries have generated thousands of pages of commentary and analysis by experts, activists and others. With the region at the mid-way point of Year 2 of the so-called Arab Spring, the actual fallout remains as vague as ever.

One common refrain is that Israel is the “biggest beneficiary” of the Arab uprisings, as it supposedly looks on with glee at the violence, destruction and chaos surrounding it.

On the one hand, countries such as Libya and Tunisia have largely remained off the radar in the wider question of how change affects Israel’s interests. But the mere fact that Tunisian politicians, in the process of drafting a new Constitution, are considering inserting the Palestine issue – as in the need to liberate Palestine – is a sign that Israel shouldn’t be comforted that all of the upheaval is somehow a benefit.

When it comes to Egypt, conspiracy theorists seem to be of two minds. On the one hand, they cry out that the revolution has been betrayed, with either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian military playing the role of the villain. But the simple fact is that the old days, when the country – and any impetus to aid the Palestinian cause – were under very tight control are now gone forever.

Bombings of the country’s gas pipeline to Israel are now a semi-regular occurrence, while the entire notion that the peace treaty with the Jewish state is sacrosanct is also a thing of the past. The treaty might remain in place in the end, but the Israelis have certainly entered a new state of unease whenever they contemplate their neighbor to the southwest.

As for Syria, after listening to some of the pundits, one might conclude that the Israelis are practically salivating at the war of attrition that has weakened the regime in Damascus.

But everyone is also awaiting the day after the fall of this regime, and until now, no one can speak with any certainty as to whether this change will be a boon for the Israelis, or a curse.

In the eyes of the street-level opposition in Syria, the Assad dynasty of both father and son are guilty of not doing enough against the Israelis – chants that the Baathists lost the Golan Heights remain popular in delegitimizing the regime.

The “street” is fond of saying that the Baath Party has fired more bullets in anger at its own people in just over a year than it has ever thought of firing at the “usurping Zionist entity” at which it loves to shake its fist.

The simple fact is that it remains premature to pontificate on what the Arab uprisings will mean for Israel. The only certainty is that the Israelis and the rest of the international community are watching with trepidation as the developments continue to unfold, day after bloody day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 27, 2012, on page 7.




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